Heroic vs. Homegrown Entrepreneurs?

When we think of "social entrepreneurship", we tend to focus on the really big organizations that have had a huge impact, groups like Teach for America or Grameen that are dealing with national or global issues of poverty, inequality and justice.

Yet research suggests that social entrepreneurship is also making an impact on the local economy. A study by Harvard Business School that analysed recent applications to the Echoing Green fellowship found that many of the most promising social enterprises are not focused on changing the world, but rather on effecting change in their own backyards.

We have become intoxicated with "heroic entrepreneurs" that have set a course to the moon, but I believe that groups focused at the community level are just as deserving of our attention. These locally-focused initiatives show us a new way in which we can take the traditional model of business and turbo-charge it with a passion for social change that could revolutionize the U.S. economy.

The research highlights the example of Bethel Erickson-Bruce, who founded an urban farm in Waco, Texas to raise awareness of sustainable agriculture and train community members in how to start their own gardens. Built on a principle of collaboration and sharing knowledge, Bethel's initiative is about giving farmers the tools to take advantage of the strategic opportunity of sustainable farming given the demand for organic produce.

Having a bold universe-changing idea is the hallmark of social entrepreneurship, and part of what I love about working in this space. And I believe that these locally-focused initiatives are universe-changing too. Homegrown entrepreneurs are helping to reshape the corporate landscape here in the U.S. They are pioneers that are taking advantage of the strategic opportunity in sustainable, socially-driven enterprise, and bringing others on the journey with them. Let's not forget they are heroes too.